Taking a proactive, digital-first approach to your branch transformation strategy | Blend
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July 14, 2020 in Challenges and solutions

4 minutes

Taking a proactive, digital-first approach to your branch transformation strategy

Considerations and tactics that will help you optimize customer experiences across all channels — including physical touchpoints.

Illustration of a branch teller engaging digitally

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the strongest branch transformation strategies may be those designed to best serve customers across all channels.

Consumer studies are increasingly making the case for digital-first banking by highlighting the current demand for banking activities to be online and mobile friendly.

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In the current climate of accelerated digitization and remote interfacing, it’s especially important to focus on enhancing digital services when planning your branch transformation strategies. In order to provide a seamless customer experience, banks can explore transformation solutions that enable consistency between in-person and online interactions.

One key piece of the branch transformation puzzle is continuing to meet the needs of multiple generations through multiple channels. A recent survey from The Financial Brand reports that today’s lenders are examining how they can reestablish brick-and-mortar branches to be more “digital first,” so they can provide robust customer service through multiple channels.

Surprisingly, Gen Z customers had the most activity at branch locations, averaging 5.9 monthly branch interactions, while boomers averaged 2.8 interactions.

Still, financial leaders are well aware of the challenges of branch transformation. According to a 2022 Bank Administration Institute (BAI) report:

  • 60% of Gen Z and 63% of millennials said they’d switch their financial services organization for a better digital or mobile experience, while only 22% of baby boomers replied similarly
  • Branches remain the preferred method for baby boomers and Gen X to open accounts
  • Financial leaders report branch changes such as hiring more digitally-savvy staff and providing lobby video signage, teller pods, or computers/tablets for customer use

The research points to two primary jumping-off points for branch strategists looking toward the future. First, what considerations feed into a digital-first plan? Second, how can you optimize your branch transformation strategies to best serve customers on multiple channels?

Considerations for creating a digital-first branch transformation strategy

Banking executives are facing rising pressures to reduce their reliance on their organization’s retail branch network and increase their investment in digital capabilities. As consumer expectations continue to be elevated by other industries, financial institutions have a slim window of time to be proactive before they’re left behind. While evaluating and driving a digital-first branch transformation strategy, banking leadership might consider the following:

Even before COVID-19, digital banking traffic was outperforming branch and call center traffic.

Restrictions from the pandemic only accelerated the inevitable growth of digital channel usage. It’s not the time for financial institutions to shift focus away from their digital investments.

Not all borrowers are fully aware of their bank’s digital capabilities.

While the pandemic greatly enhanced customers’ overall awareness of online and mobile banking offerings, a gap still remains. Financial institutions that keep this awareness gap in mind will continue to show consumers their flexible, digital opportunities.

Baby boomers, seniors, and Gen X depend more on physical channels than millennials and Gen Z.

Any digital-first branch transformation strategy should take into consideration the demands of all generations, but you can’t be everything to everyone. In addition to offering mobile banking for younger customers, branch transformation strategies may want to continue to focus on in-person customer service — the exact balance can be determined by your unique customer demographics.

Optimize consumer experiences with a well-rounded branch transformation strategy

Digital transformation doesn’t need to feel overwhelming or unattainable. With the right partner, the transition to a digital-first branch transformation strategy is a gradual process — not a “rip and replace” overhaul. This is where Blend comes in.

Accelerating investments into proven digital solutions

From using artificial intelligence to improve profit potential to putting workflows in the cloud, we help financial firms leverage digital trends and accelerate innovation across every line of business. Blend enhances delight customers and reduces financial team frustration by offering consistency and a unified digital experience throughout any financial process.

Educating consumers of their digital capabilities

Closing the awareness gap involves addressing consumer needs intentionally and delivering solutions that align to modern expectations. Cloud banking software does just that by providing consumers with intuitive access to technology — from making secure payments remotely to quickly applying for a new credit card from a mobile device.

Being flexible and catering to the needs of different demographics

Once you understand your brand’s unique demographics, then you can build a branch transformation strategy that supports the needs of all customers. Blend’s lending and banking technology supports both in-person branch activities and a broad suite of digital touchpoints with one unified platform.

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